By Brett Carroll
Jackson Liberty High School football teammates Javier Duran, Jake Stillwell and Steve Schuster will follow the instructions of their coach when the annual All-Shore Gridiron Classic all-star game pitting Monmouth County against Ocean County is played June 29.
Their coach at Jackson Liberty, James Sharples, had nothing but praise for his graduated senior player who will suit up for Ocean County in the all-star game that will be held at Shore Regional High School in West Long Branch.
“My advice is to have fun, make some new friends and enjoy the experience,” Sharples said. “I’ve coached in this game and the kids have a blast. All three are quiet kids, so I told them to step out of their comfort zone and be more outgoing. I also told them they are representing their school and town and to make us proud.”
Duran will play on the defensive line and Stillwell will see action on the offensive line, while Schuster, who was selected as a linebacker and fullback, is not expected to play due to a foot injury.
Stillwell, who will be play for Delaware Valley University in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, in the fall, is excited to play in the game.
“It’s a great accomplishment to be selected for this game, and I can’t wait to play,” Stillwell said. “It’s even better that I’ll be playing with my brothers.”
Sharples saw these players grow.
“I’m very proud,” Sharples said. “These kids were my first group that I had the pleasure to coach for all four of their years. I became the head coach in 2013 when they were freshmen. I had the chance to see them grow from young boys to young men. It’s an honor to play in this game, and I hope they cherish the memory.”
Sharples also believes that while his players will enjoy the atmosphere, they will be out to win.
“The boys are competitors,” Sharples said. “They will perform when given the opportunity, which is usually the case in these games. Stillwell was an all-division performer (Shore Conference B South Division) who is undersized (5-foot-11, 210 pounds) at his position but has a tremendous heart and plays hard every snap. I expect him to impress his coaches during the week of practice and find his way onto the field. Duran is big and strong and can make plays.”
Schuster, who will play linebacker for Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio, in the fall, may not see any action in the all-star game.
“My big disappointment is that Schuster, our team MVP, leading tackler and two time all-division selection has been recovering from a lacrosse injury and may not be able to play in this game,” Sharples said. “There is no one more deserving to play in this game than Steven.”
Duran’s college career will continue at Bridgton Academy, a prep school located in Maine.